Louis C.K.: Common Core Makes My Kids Cry

Louis C.K. SNL
Comedian Louis C.K. to take part in Oddball Comedy and Curiosity Festival at Nikon at Jones Beach. (Photo: YouTube)

If imitation is the biggest form of flattery, consider comedian Louis C.K. Dr. Mark Naison’s biggest fan.

Naison, who goes by the moniker Notorious Ph.D, is a professor of history and chair of African and African-American Studies at Fordham University and co-founder of the anti-Common Core coalition Badass Teachers Association (aka BAT). He’s also the author of the upcoming book Badass Teachers Unite, which explores education, history and activism, and is perhaps one of the most outspoken, and colorful, critics of the Obama administration’s controversial education reform. A white guy with a focus on black history and culture is obviously ripe for parody, and nobody laughed harder when Louis C.K. embodied his persona on a Saturday Night Live skit last month called “Black Jeopardy.”

“Hell, Louis C.K. even called the character Mark!” Naison tells the Press. “I got at least 300 Facebook messages about that within a day the show appeared.”

Naison is no stranger to comedy. In fact, Louis C.K. adopted this character from Naison’s 2004 appearance on Chappelle’s Show, in a skit called, “I Know Black People”—a game show where contestants had to answer questions about African-American culture.

Naison’s question—“Is pimping easy?”—nailed it.

“The Chappelle Show episode has given me ten times more attention and street cred among young people than everything I did in my life put together,” says Naison, “and to see it used as the basis of a skit on SNL was an incredible thrill.”

Louis C.K. is now taking it even further.

On Monday, as thousands lined the streets in Holbrook to protest New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s role in what many see as damaging and harmful Common Core standards and standardized tests, Louis C.K. sat with his third grade daughter and attempted to help her with her math homework.

And it wasn’t funny.

So, he took his frustrations with Common Core to the Twittersphere.

The answer is complicated and a point of contention among many anti-Common Core advocates, such as Naison. The authors of the Common Core state standards do not count among them any with significant classroom teaching experience, charge critics, and lack expertise with childhood development. Pile on a competitive “race” for federal funding and what you have looks like this:

Parents across Long Island and the nation have been very publicly—and vehemently—protesting these seemingly incomprehensible homework problems. Even Comedy Central funnyman-turned-recently named Late Show With David Letterman successor Stephen Colbert joined in.

Critics’ questions for the politicians who’ve been responsible for the standards’ shoddy implementation and nonsensical homework made from unintelligible modules provided from the state site EngageNY—developed and maintained by the New York State Education Department—cross political lines. Even Democrats who largely support Gov. Andrew Cuomo and President Barack Obama have come out almost unanimously against Common Core and standardized testing. In what has become an alarmingly polarizing political atmosphere, this issue has brought together progressives with conservatives, libertarians with liberals, Democrats with Republicans.

They all have in common a uniting thread shared by Louis C.K.: They’re all parents.

“After spending the last year fighting Common Core and uncontrolled testing and having Louis C.K. talk about the same things on Twitter. That was just AMAZING,” Naison beams. “It makes me feel that all of us out in the trenches—the parents, the teachers, the courageous students—were not sacrificing in vain. We are going to win. We are going to stop this machine and push it back! And bring creativity and joy back into the classrooms. The same kind of joy that Louis C.K. and Dave Chappelle bring to television!

“Our children need that joy!” he adds. “They deserve that joy! And our teachers need to be freed to convey it to them!”

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